By Gaynor Madoc Leonard, 2011-10-31
The frustrations of producing a novel which one hopes will at least be read, if not on the bestseller charts, are manifold.
There are the physical problems: blurry eyes (from looking at a computer screen for far too long); stiff shoulders and neck (from too much typing); aching legs (from the lack of a proper desk, footrest and typist's chair). There is the anger, rumbling constantly under the surface, from the lack of faith by publishers and literary agents.
In addition, there is the fury one feels with the computer software which fails to appreciate one's bons mots (in fact it's just done it with that very phrase) and offers ridiculous alternatives which make no sense at all.
I've mentioned lack of faith but that could also be interpreted as prejudice. While Scotland and Ireland appear to have any number of authors writing various types of literature about the most obscure parts of those delightful countries, anyone who dares to write about Wales is the subject of near-derision. I'll allow that some serious literary works, especially the poetical, have been found morethan acceptable but anyone, with the notable exception of Malcolm Pryce, who tries to take the reader down the humorous paths beyond Offa's Dyke is clearly not to be taken seriously.
The response I've received from a variety of publishers (mainly Welsh) and literary agents (mainly non-Welsh, simply because there don't seem to be any Welsh ones) is a variation on the theme of "Yes, it's amusing but we can't take a chance on it" with one literary agent (part-Welsh) inviting me to write something non-Welsh which she would be pleased to take a look at. The latter does at least give me some sort of back-handed compliment in implying that she thinks I can write! For such crumbs from the literary power breakfast table I suppose I should be grateful.
I've said before and I'll say it again, if one is famous for one thing (whether it's pulling a ten-ton truck with one's teeth, having multiple breast-enlargements, having an affair with a Member of Parliament/footballer/Z-list celebrity, taking part in Big Brother or just being Tony Blair) then publishers will be beating a path to one's door and offering a book contract with large amounts of folding money changing hands. The fact that one cannot write (in either sense) is neither here nor there; a ghost-writer will be employed and Bob is one's uncle. There'll be queues in High Street bookshops up and down the land. This is merely a fact of life, like death, taxes and dog shit where one least expects it.
There are multi-million-selling authors who would probably even admit themselves that they are not good writers but they can at least tell a story (I'm not testing this hypothesis by naming anyone as I can't afford a lawyer). The one that really gets me riled is the one who sells in millions and has his name above the titles but does not actually write the novels. Actually, I'm just envious of anyone who can get away with a deal like that.
So, as Miss Nobody, I sit at my computer and type my deathless prose in the vague (not vain) hope that there are at least a few people out there who will enjoy what I've written.
Yes, the software did it again!
By Gaynor Madoc Leonard, 2010-11-25
Due to the inevitable recent cutbacks, one or two doubts have been expressed about the proposed high-speed rail line planned for the London to Swansea route. On top of this, we have the unwelcome new rail fares. On the one hand, we are being encouraged to be eco-conscious and abandon private transport for public transport and, on the other, the rail companies are raising rail fares by enormous amounts. Those of us who do not have cars and rely on the railways and other public transport become increasingly frustrated, particularly as the hike in rail fares is not matched by a hike in service; indeed, it is all too often the opposite.
Yesterday, I travelled from Carmarthen to London. The train I had planned to catch from Carmarthen was cancelled yet Arriva's website (Arriva being the local train provider), which had not been updated for a few days, stated on its live update page that all services were "good". I caught the next train and boarded First Great Western's London service. If the heating was working at the start of the journey, and I'm not convinced it was, it certainly was not on during the latter part of the journey and I was obliged to put on my coat to keep warm. While on the train, I looked up the history of the Great Western Railway. In 1852, thanks to Brunel, the journey time from London to Swansea, via Chepstow (ie: the long way around), was cut to 5 hours. Over the intervening 16 decades, mankind has eradicated various diseases, conquered the air and outer space, put men on the moon and spacecraft on Mars. Come with me through the space-time continuum to the 21st century where the journey is now (via the Severn Tunnel) still 3 hours. There are occasional through-trains to Carmarthen but, usually at Swansea, one is obliged to change to the local train so the journey (approximately 220 miles by road) takes a full 4 hours. I can get to Paris in less than half the time and I can get to Edinburgh in less time. Pity those poor people who travel all the way to Milford Haven or to Fishguard for the ferry to Ireland.
Is this symptomatic of Big Government's attitude to Wales? If the high-speed rail line is deferred or simply even goes only as far as Bristol, there will surely be a domino effect on all aspects of Welsh life. If we are to be taken seriously in culture, business and all kinds of industry, we need that fast connection.
By Gaynor Madoc Leonard, 2010-11-15
I started thinking about Ryan Davies the other day and wondered whether there were any DVDs available of either Ryan a Ronnie or How Green Was My Father. As the latter was repeated on TV many years after Ryan's death, one imagines it must be about somewhere in the archives. There's a snippet of it on:
I know I'm not the only person who would love to see Our House/Teulu Ni again, with "Mam" cutting bread against her bosom and Nigel Wyn lurking in his school uniform. The BBC must have something in its archives, notorious though Auntie Beeb is for chucking things out. Only quite recently I saw an episode of one of their shows with Gareth Edwards doing a creditable soft shoe shuffle with R&R.
There's a nice tribute to Ryan on:
In the meantime, there is still Ryan at the Rank and an album called Ffrindiau which I believe has Teulu Ni on it. Ryan at the Rank is/will be downloadable for MP3 players too.
Gaynor (aka Phyllis Doris)
By Gaynor Madoc Leonard, 2010-11-03
Many of you may be aware of the think-tank, the Institute of Welsh Affairs. Today I received my latest copy of Cambria Magazine, in which there is a leaflet for the IWA. I confess that I know nothing about it but it looks as though it might be worthwhile investigating and it has a worldwide membership. If anyone is interested the website is iwa.org.uk.
By Gaynor Madoc Leonard, 2010-09-23
Has anyone out there read any of Pat Winter's series of books on Prince Madoc? I happened to see something about the books on the internet and I've just received books 1 and 2 in the series so I'll make a start on them (a welcome change from "Nothing to Envy", a book I've just read about North Korea!). Pat Winter is actually American - raised in Arkansas.
By Gaynor Madoc Leonard, 2010-09-12
I am back in Carmarthen and can see in yesterday's Western Mail magazine that from next Saturday (18th September), they will be featuring a 25-part history of Wales in the magazine. I have no idea whether this will be published as a book but I'll check their website. I imagine it will be viewable on the site but I'm not certain.
By Gaynor Madoc Leonard, 2010-08-29
I had to look up directions to a place where I'll be meeting a friend this week and found that it's very close to the MI6 building in London which is marked on the London streetmap as "Secret Intelligence Service", rather defeating the purpose one would have thought, except that the building is well-known throughout the world since being featured in a Bond film.
I looked up both MI6 and MI5 on the web (they both have easily-accessible websites) and was rather impressed that amongst the 6 or 7 alternative languages MI5 provides on its site, Welsh is one. MI6 does not do us that courtesy.
We'll know we've arrived when we have a Welsh-speaking Bond villain.
By Gaynor Madoc Leonard, 2010-08-26
Has anyone else read Robert Lewis's series of books about Robin Llewellyn, grubby PI and professional drunk? I've just read The Last Llanelli Train and intend reading the others. Really bleak but a very mature novel for someone in his twenties, as Lewis was when he wrote it. I particularly liked the black humour of the following:
'I've never been one for long, dark nights of the soul. I've tried, but I just couldn't stay awake...'